Articles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court determining that the prosecutor did not abuse her discretion in a manner clearly contrary to manifest public interest when she entered a nolle prosequi on the basis that the State's material witness had become disabled for purposes of Conn. Gen. Stat. 54-56b, holding that, given the prosecutor's representations, the trial court properly deferred to the prosecutor's exercise of her discretion and allowed the nolle to enter. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecutor's basis for entering the nolle, i.e., that the State's key witness was "disabled" because her fear prevented her from being able to testify, was insufficient as a matter of law to establish that the witness was disabled for purposes of Conn. Gen. Stat. 54-56b. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the prosecutor represented to the court that the witness was disabled to her compromised mental state and that her statements demonstrated that compromised mental state; and (2) the trial court did not make a finding that the witness was or was not disabled but, rather, properly grounded its ruling on its finding that, in entering the nolle, the prosecutor had not abused her discretion in a manner clearly contrary to manifest public interest. View "State v. Owen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that inmates charged in criminal cases, some of whose telephone calls and noncontact visits have been recorded and reviewed by the Department of Corrections, are not entitled, under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963), to a review of all calls and visits even though the Department has limited its review to only some of the recorded conversations. While the Department automatically records all calls and visits of all inmates, when a Department, acting as an investigative arm of the State, reviews some of those calls and visits as part of the investigation into an inmate's particular criminal case, the calls and visits reviewed are subject to Brady's disclosure requirements. Defendant issued a subpoena to the Department seeking the production of more than 1500 audio recordings of calls and visits of Defendant's four codefendants. The trial court granted in part the motions to quashed filed by the State and the Department, concluding that Defendant must first make a showing that the recordings contained exculpatory information. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the recordings at issue were not part of the investigation of the State's case against Defendant, Defendant was not entitled to review the recorded conversations. View "State v. McCoy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming Defendant's conviction of one count of murder, holding that the trial court should have dismissed rather than denied Defendant's motion for a new trial. After the jury returned its verdict but prior to the sentencing date, Defendant filed a motion for a new trial. The sentencing hearing went forward, and the court sentenced Defendant. Defendant subsequently sought to have his motion for a new trial heard. The trial court denied the motion without a hearing on the ground that it had lost jurisdiction. The Appellate Court affirmed, holding that the motion was correctly denied because the trial court lost jurisdiction once Defendant's sentence was executed. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded with direction to dismiss Defendant's motion for a new trial, holding (1) given that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over Defendant's motion for a new trial, the court should have dismissed Defendant's motion; and (2) the trial court's failure to rule on Defendant's motion for a new trial prior to sentencing did not constitute plain error. View "State v. Guerrera" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the habeas court granting Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Petitioner established good cause for failing to raise his claim at trial or on direct appeal that he was deprived of his right to counsel. Following a jury trial, Petitioner was found guilty of sexual assault and risk of injury. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he had wrongfully been denied counsel at his criminal trial. Petitioner failed to raise a claim related to that deprivation either at trial or on direct appeal. The State filed a return asserting an affirmative defense of procedural default. The habeas court granted the petition, concluding that a claim of public defender error was not procedurally defaulted. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, for purposes of determining whether a habeas claim is barred by procedural default, prejudice is presumed when the petitioner is completely denied his right to counsel. View "Newland v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming Defendant's conviction, holding that Defendant's statements during interrogation did not meet the standard set forth in Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452, 459-60 (1994), so as to require suppression but that a more protective prophylactic rule set forth in this opinion is required under the Connecticut constitution to adequately safeguard the right against self-incrimination. Defendant was convicted of three counts of risk of injury to a child. On appeal, Defendant challenged the denial of his motion to suppress certain statements he made during interrogation, arguing that the statements had been elicited after he invoked his right to have counsel present. The Appellate Court affirmed, holding that Defendant's references to counsel would not have been understood by a reasonable police officer as an expression of a present desire to consult with counsel. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant's statements during the interrogation did not constitute an invocation of his right to counsel under Davis; (2) however, the state Constitution requires that police officers clarify an ambiguous request for counsel before they can continue the interrogation; and (3) because no such clarification was elicited in this case, and the failure to do so was harmful, Defendant was entitled to a new trial. View "State v. Purcell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court granting Defendant's motions to suppress all cell site location information (CSLI) obtained by the State as a result of three ex parte orders that had been granted pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 54-47aa, holding that because the State obtained did not obtain Defendant's historical CSLI based on a warrant supported by reasonable cause, the records were obtained in violation of Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. The State obtained the CSLI at issue solely on the basis of a reasonable and articulable suspicion. The State conceded that it obtained the CSLI in violation of section 54-47aa. The trial court determined that suppression of both the historical and the prospective CSLI was the appropriate remedy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly granted Defendant's motions to suppress the CSLI records because the records were obtained illegally and because suppression was the appropriate remedy as to the illegally obtained records; and (2) the trial court properly determined that suppression of those records also required that Defendant's statement and potential testimony be suppressed. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence discovered by the police during the forcible detention of Defendant, holding that Defendant's detention violated his Fourth Amendment rights under Navarette v. California, 572 U.S. 393 (2014). Defendant was detained pursuant to Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) on the basis of an anonymous telephone tip regarding "a young man that has a handgun." After Defendant was detained, the police saw him drop an object in a garbage can. A subsequent search revealed that the object was a handgun. Defendant was charged with criminal possession of a pistol and carrying a pistol without a permit. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that his detention was unconstitutional because the anonymous tip did not give rise to a reasonable suspicion that he was engaged in, or was about to be engaged in, criminal activity. Therefore, Defendant argued that the handgun was tainted as the result of his unlawful seizure. The trial court denied the motion to suppress. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the anonymous telephone call did not give rise to a reasonable suspicion that Defendant was in possession of a handgun, justifying an investigative Terry stop. View "State v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court concluding that the improper exclusion of P's testimony during the underlying criminal proceedings was not harmless, holding that the testimony was necessary for the jury to assess the complainant's credibility, and therefore, the exclusion of P's testimony was not harmless. Defendant was charged with sexual assault in the second degree and two counts of risk of injury to a child. The trial court precluded Defendant from calling P, the complainant's longtime boyfriend, as a witness regarding his observations of certain aspects of the complainant's behavior that the State's expert witness had testified were commonly exhibited by child victims of sexual assault. The Appellate Court reversed, holding that P's testimony was improperly excluded because it was relevant to the issue of whether the complainant had exhibited behaviors associated with some sexual assault victims, which had a clear and direct bearing on the central issue in this case - whether the complainant had been sexually assaulted by Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the improper exclusion of P's testimony was not harmless. View "State v. Fernando V." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming Defendant’s judgment of conviction, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for attempt to commit murder under the substantial step provision of Conn. Gen. Stat. 53a-49(a)(2) because the determination of what constitutes a substantial step focuses on what the actor has already done rather than on what the actor has left to do to complete the substantive crime. The Appellate Court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to sustain Defendant’s conviction of attempted murder after construing section 53a-49(a)(2) to require the substantial step inquiry to focus on what the actor has already done rather than what remains to be done. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was ample evidence from which a jury could have determined beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant took a substantial step to murder the intended victim. View "State v. Daniel B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant’s motion to correct on illegal sentence, holding that the Appellate Court’s thorough and well reasoned opinion fully addressed Defendant’s question certified to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted Defendant’s petition for certification to appeal, limited to the question of whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that Defendant’s sentence was not illegal, did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause, and did not run contrary to legislative intent. The Supreme Court adopted the Appellate Court’s opinion as the proper statement of the issues and the applicable law concerning those issues and affirmed. View "State v. Henderson" on Justia Law